Isle of Wight Branch 60th Anniversary

Published: 12th September 2010

Sixty Years On

Although the Historical Association was formed in 1906 sixteen years elapsed before a branch was established on the Isle of Wight.  From the HA's archives, stored   at Nottingham University, the annual reports indicate the Branch was formed in June 1922 and by the end of the first year there was a membership of 33  and lectures included such topics as The Valley of the Kings, The American Constitution, Aspects of the French Revolution, Teaching of History (do things change?)  and three lectures with local connections.  It would seem enthusiasm waned the following year as membership dropped to seventeen. Sadly after 1925-26 no reports were submitted suggesting the Branch was no longer active.

The IW Branch, second creation, was established at a meeting held at God's Providence House, Newport on 23rd June 1950. The driving force behind this was Walter Roberts, the history teacher at Newport Secondary Grammar School, and he envisaged the aims of the proposed association as "the collection and distribution of historical information and provision of relevant literature. The programme might vary from a few meetings a year, addressed by experts, to the holding of study groups monthly, to archaeological diggings, excursions etc .."  The inaugural meeting was supported by the  Island's Chief Education Officer, A. L. Hutchinson and a number of local dignitaries including W.J. Sibbick JP (Editor of the IW County Press), Sir Robert Hobart Bt. (first Chairman 1950 -56), S.E. Ayling, Rev.R. F. Martyn, Rev. H. R. Mason and J. B. Priestley. The first Secretary was Mrs. D. Signaux (1950-52) assisted by Miss S. Young and Mr. T. G. Boyland became the first Treasurer (1950 -67). Presidents included A. L. Hutchinson (1959-56), J. B. Priestley (1956- 60), A. J. P. Taylor (1960-76) Father Hockey of Quarr Abbey (1976 -88), Dr. Jack Jones (1988-05) and  Dr. Paul Hooper 2005-.

As the years have passed the membership has increased to 170+, many speakers are university  lecturers, experts in their own right, and summer outings to the mainland often follow up a particular talk, as for example the visit to Silchester. Summer guided history walks around local villages, the involvement of the schools in the national History Debate, students co-opted to the committee and the promotion of Local History weeks in 2002 and 2006, which spawned the IW Local History Forum, have kept the Committee busy in recent years. It could be said that, apart from archaeological digs, current programmes have embraced all that Walter Roberts envisage sixty years ago.

To celebrate this special Anniversary, an afternoon tea was held at the Brading Roman Villa with  sixty members and friends, including  Mrs. Shelia Mace (nee Roberts),  Tom Priestly, John Hobart and Andrew Hutchinson. Terence Blunden, current Secretary, in a short talk, reminded members of life in 1950 at national and Island level.  Rebecca Sullivan, Chief Executive Officer of the Historical Association, welcomed the opportunity to join the Branch in its celebrations and offered congratulations on the progress made.  Tom Priestley proposed a vote of thanks on behalf of the invited guests.